Gambling in ancient Rome

History of Rome Gambling

Gambling is one of the games or leisure activities that is played from ancient times. As much as in different parts of the world gambling was prevalent in Rome to during these times. People from all strata of life whether nobles or slaves were far into gambling. And anyone who wished to gamble was free to do so.

There were different spots or dens for gambling in the public places and also frontier forts. People flocked there during their free time and enjoyed the games of gambling a lot. A few people would gather in their homes with family and friends to enjoy a game or two.

A popular leisure activity

Gambling usually a game of dice was prevalent, and people from all classes enjoyed the game with equal enthusiasm. When people gathered to play for them, it was only a game of luck. The noble had particular dens created inside their palaces to play these games.

It was considered a recreational or leisure activity. As general rule ladies were not much allowed to gamble. However, on some special occasions like Bona Dea festival, all the ladies who were interested could gamble to their fill. This was a special event organised for the ladies to enjoy themselves. But unfortunately this became a chronic habit for many, and it became a routine for them.

Laws restricting gambling

When gambling turned from a passion to an addiction for many, it created some problems. Then it was time for the government to take some actions. The states of different times had made strict rules and regulations to ban gambling. Both the imperial law and the republican rule continued to have a ban on this favourite game.

But the love for gambling was such that these laws did not deter the elite or the commoner. But then the citizens were allowed to gamble on special days like the festival of Saturnalia. During these festival days, people ventured openly and to their fill.

Game of dice

Gambling usually meant playing a game with the throw of dice. Three dice were used to play these games. There were two variants of this game. One was played with only using dice and the other with dice and board. The board was made with 36 squares.

Different kinds of symbols were drawn on them like letters, leaves, crosses, squares and so on. You had some pieces which were moved according to the total of numbers that appeared when the dice were thrown. When all the three faces showed six it was considered to be the luckiest throw.


There were different kinds of games that were predominantly played for stakes other than the games of dice.

Different kinds of games

Backgammon which is also known as a twelve signs or lines game was a favourite game in ancient Rome. Every player took 15 pieces, and three dice were used to play it.

Game of brigands was another well-liked game. Different coloured glass pieces were used in this game. The one who could capture the most pieces was considered as the winner. He was then named as king.

Knucklebones is another game played during these old times. There were two variants in this kind of game too. The first considered a skill game and the other a chance game. In the former, you had five bones, and these had to be thrown into the air. On its way down it had to be caught. The latter had four bones which were labelled as digits 1, 3, 4 and 6. The throw that was highest was Venus and the lowest dog.